Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Last of Lord Peter

“We do not enjoy a story fully at the first reading. Not till the curiosity, the sheer narrative lust, has been given its sop and laid asleep, are we at leisure to savour the real beauties. Till then, it is like wasting great wine on a ravenous natural thirst which merely wants cold wetness.”

--C.S. Lewis, “On Stories”, in Of Other Worlds

Finally, I have finished all 11 of Dorothy Sayers’ “Lord Peter” mysteries. But that doesn’t mean I’m finished with them. Not at all! Now, I will be able to go back and read them slowly. I’ll pay attention to the literary allusions. I’ll observe characters more closely. Now comes the real fun!

Here are my first impressions of the two I’ve read most recently:

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club

“What in the world, Wimsey, are you doing in this Morgue?” demanded Captain Fentiman, flinging aside the “Evening Banner” with the air of a man released from an irksome duty. –opening line of chapter one

Captain Fentiman’s jest about the somber atmosphere of the club becomes surprisingly true just minutes later. A bit of unpleasantness is discovered, in the form of an elderly gentleman apparently deceased in his sleep—right there in the smoking room. An unpleasant enough situation for the management—think of the publicity!—becomes worse when the question of murder is raised.

This book kept me guessing: each time I thought I’d found the solution, I discovered that there were way too many pages left for me to be right in my conclusions. Then, when I finally found out what really happened, I felt I should have known all along.

The Five Red Herrings

Red herring: something used to divert attention from the basic issue.

One body. Six suspects. Only one is guilty. Which?

Don’t get skip all the talk about railway timetables, bicycle tires and painting techniques. Take your time and be observant. Don’t rush breathlessly to the end like I did. I felt a bit of a fool!

There are two more Lord Peter stories, written by Jill Paton Walsh, but I don’t have very high hopes for these. I’ve always been leery of series continued by other authors. However, I am giving Thrones, Dominations a chance.

*Edit* I gave Thrones, Dominations a chance. I read about half, which was more than it deserved. Yuck. There are some things I don't want to read about. I'm all for mysteries without character's lustful ruminations and innuendo. Don't even bother with it.

Here’s a list of the books in order of their printing (courtesy of Wikipedia), with links to my reviews:

* Whose Body?, 1923
* Clouds of Witness, 1926
* Unnatural Death, 1927
* The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, 1928
* Strong Poison, 1931
* Five Red Herrings, 1931
* Have His Carcase, 1932
* Murder Must Advertise, 1933
* The Nine Tailors, 1934
* Gaudy Night, 1935
* Busman's Honeymoon, 1937
* Thrones, Dominations, 1998 (not finished by Sayers -- completed by Jill Paton Walsh)
* A Presumption of Death, 2002 (written by Jill Paton Walsh, based loosely on The Wimsey Papers)

I have also commented on Lord Peter, a short story collection.

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